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Regression Tendencies and Conflict Generation in Groups Individuality versus Collectivity Dr. Athena Chatjoulis- Department of Communication and Media Studies, University of Athens. - My experience from running groups of young adults in short or long term psychotherapeutic groups

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Regression Tendencies and Conflict

Generation in Groups

Individuality versus Collectivity

Dr. Athena Chatjoulis- Department of Communication

and Media Studies, University of Athens.


  • young adults in short or long term psychotherapeutic groups

  • - Issues:

  • the way in which the ambivalence expressed by the members of the group to remain or not in the group was reflecting their ambivalence to remain or not in their job or even their ambivalence to remain in their relationship


  • Questions: Do I want to belong to a group?

    Do I want to be alone?

    Do I want to be inside or

    outside the system,

    or inside and outside the

    system – the work, the family


    • -> Discuss:

    • - how the study of the unconscious processes

    • that take place during group formation can help

    • us to understand:

    • -> the individual’s need of belongingness and

    • his ambivalent feelings concerning his desire to become a member of a group or stay out of it

    • how the collectivephenomena in any group, may

    • put the individual in a situation of insoluble

    • conflictby generating anxiety feelings and

    • regression tendencies


    Argument

    -> This fundamental ambivalence

    between collectivity and individuality

    is even more prominent in post-modern

    flexible societies as it is

    the individual’s need of belongingness


    The analysis is mainly centered on

    the “group-as-a-whole”approach and Bion’s

    theory and

    on the various stages the group goes through:

    -> the “emerging group stage”,

    -> the “fraternal community stage or

    the “affiliated group”,

    -> the “differentiated group”,

    -> the stage of “fragmented group”

    (Ettin, 1996, 2000, Neri, 1998)

    ->


    The basic assumption for this type of analysis

    is that:

    the group is the primitive form of expression of

    any social organization and that humans as

    social animals perceive themselves only

    in relation to the group they belong to.

    Their “group-self” consists the

    core of their personal identity.


    Groups are defined

    not as an aggregate cluster of persons,

    but as

    “collective formations of interacting individuals”,

    (Lewin, 1951)


    Scientists who worked

    on group phenomena and mass psychology

    as well as analysts of individual

    psychodynamics (Le Bon, McDougall,

    Freud), associated the unconscious processes

    which underlie individual’s behavior with the

    behavior of small and large groups and the

    society as a whole, using psychoanalytical

    and sociological notions and models to

    describe and interpret relational and group

    phenomena.


    In addition,

    research on the dual relation

    between “parent-child”, and on the therapeutic

    relationship between “analyst-client”

    and on the notions of transference and

    counter transference offered many

    insights to group psychology.


    For example, the studies

    - on the defense mechanisms (Anna Freud), or

    - on the processes of projective identifications

    (Klein) were used to analyze

    how people try to protect themselves

    at any cost from personal and social

    stress in order to maintain an integrated ego.

    -Later they were used by other researchers

    (Zalesnik, 1984) to demonstrate how social

    systems defend themselves against collective

    stress in order to maintain their organizational

    cohesion.


    “The group-as-a-whole”,

    “… Perhaps we ought to reverse the traditional

    assumptions,equally shared by psychoanalysts,

    about the individual being the ultimate entity

    and that group phenomena are to be interpreted

    through the individual. The opposite is true.

    The group, the community is the ultimate,

    primary unit of study and the inner processes

    of the individual are internalizationsof the forces

    operating in the groups the individualbelongs to”

    S.H.Foulkes


    “The group-as-a-whole” approach

    Lewin (1951), Bion (1961, 1970),

    Foulkes (1964)

    - is the result of the special model for the

    analysis of group relations developed at the London Tavistock Institute of Human

    Relations

    Bion (1961), Rice (1963), Foulkes (1964). Rioch (1970) and Back (1972


    “The group-as-a-whole” approach

    evolved in a heart of a century marked

    by two world wars

    Two fundamental themes are emphasized

    in this approach:

    a)      the perennial tension between

    individual and collective needs and

    b)the equally ubiquitous tension

    between authoritarian and

    democratic patterns

    of group life.


    Overall these approaches suggest that the outcome of the union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    clinical, organizational or political

    purposes is

    a new entity with autonomous, evolving, structural,dynamic and relational attributes

    reflecting but overriding the individuals

    it is comprised of.


    As Foulkes mentions: union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    “the group-as-a-whole”is not just a turn of phrase,

    it is a living organism, as distinct from the

    individuals it is comprised of. It has mood

    and reactions, a spirit, a feeling and

    a particular atmosphere

    (Foulkes, 1964, p. 70).


    Thus, when individuals become members union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    of a group, their behavior changes

    and a collective identity emerges:

    a task group, a sports team,

    a lynch mob, a utopian community,

    an organization – they all become

    a new whole, a Gestalt, whereby

    the group is the point of focus

    and the individual members

    become the background.


    Bion, union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    speaks of the mental states (mentality)

    of the group:

    in the group there is a regressive mentality

    (which in some measure corresponds to

    Freud’s mass group)

    and evolutive mentality

    (shown, for example, in a capacity

    to co-operate in order to attain an end).


    Bion: union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    -> Turned his attention to the analysis of more

    primary levels of the individual’s mental life and

    concluded that group phenomena cannot be

    understood according to the model of the

    Oedipus complex or the model of family ties.

     -> Developed his theory

    Using concepts from M. Klein object-relation

    theory, from Lewin’s field theory and

    From the theory of general systems

    (Bertalanffy, 1968).


    Bion: union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    life in any group evolves on two levels:

    on the level of task, which constitutes

    the ‘work group or rational group’,

    and on the level of primary psychic phenomena,

    which constitutes

    the ‘basic assumptions group’.


    The union of any number of people who make up a group either for work group is characterized by a state

    of co-operative and deliberate mental

    activity.

    The task is explicit, rational, conscious

    and immediately related to objective

    reality.

    For Bion, the ‘work group’ is a collective

    mentality and at the same time an aspect

    of the individual mind.


    The phrase union of any number of people who make up a group either for ‘work group’ used by Bion,

    is there to illustrate that a learning activity

    is necessary for the achievement of

    the group’s aims,

    and

    that participation in the ‘work-group’ also

    implies having developed

    some skills which Freud had indicated

    as characteristics of the individual’s

    Ego, that is attention, verbal representation

    and symbolic thought.


    The union of any number of people who make up a group either for basic assumptions group

    is characterized by an implicit, irrational,

    fantasy-dominated state which emerges

    when regression or emotional needs prevail.

    It is a collective expression of the group

    whereby the physical, psychological

    and mental elements are not differentiated

    but constitute a field where emotions arise

    instinctively and instantly overwhelming

    and dominating the mental activities of the group.

    It is a primitive mentality state.


    In the union of any number of people who make up a group either for basic assumption group

    the group operates as if certainthings were true

    like, for instance, that the leader is all-powerful

    and wise. This may lead to over-dependency

    on him. In other words, the primary needs,

    fantasies and desires of each group member

    come to surface.

    This may create an emotionally charged and

    illogical atmosphere which prevents the group

    from pursuing its task, i.e. from becoming

    a ‘work group’


    The “basic assumptions” are: union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    the basic assumption of dependency,

    the basic assumption of fight-flightand

    the basic assumption of pairing.

    At the basic assumptions level, the group behaves

    “as if” one of these states truly existed, and

    “as if” certain behaviors were vital for the

    survival of the group.

    “Basic” refers to the survival motivation of group;

    “assumption” underlines the fact that the survival

    motivation is based, not on fact or reality,

    but on the collective projections of the group


    -> the basic assumption of dependency union of any number of people who make up a group either for ,

    Aim to attain security and protection from a

    leader

    ->the basic assumption of fight-flight

    “as if” its survival depends on some form

    of action manifested either as an attack or flight

    (flight from the group’s task,

    -> the basic assumption of pairing.

    establishment of bonding between two individuals

    -a pair- which will give “birth” to an idea or a new

    leader, a “Messiah” who will save the

    group, and help it complete its task.


    In Bion’s essay, “Experiences in groups” union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    (Bion, 1961), the two group states,

    ‘the work group’ and the ‘basic assumptions group’ do not exist in a continuum but appear

    as both concurrent and opposite.

    We could say, that the evolved man

    (expression of the work group) and regressed man (expression of primitive mentality) are present in both the caveman and his modern

    descendant technological man.


    - Besides, union of any number of people who make up a group either for the active and simultaneous presence

    of these two states both in the group as a whole

    and in each one of its members puts the individual

    in a situation of insoluble conflict. If he participates

    only in the work group, he feels deprived of

    warmth and strength. If he persists in the basic

    assumptions group, he knows he may find

    it impossible to pursue his own goals as

    a thinking individual.


    The various stages the group goes through union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    during its formation:

    -> the “emerging group stage”,

    -> the “fraternal community stage or

    the “affiliated group”,

    -> the “differentiated group”,

    -> the stage of “fragmented group”

    (Ettin, 1996, 2000, Neri, 1998)


    -> the union of any number of people who make up a group either for “emerging group stage”,

    is characterized by a collective illusion

    whereby the individuals-members of the group

    exist and interact as being in

    “the best group of the world”,

    on the one side, and by experiences

    of personality fragmentation,

    on the other.


    -> the union of any number of people who make up a group either for “emerging group stage”,

    Initially, a sense of euphoria grabsthe members

    of the group who are flooded by pleasant

    feelings of belongingsomewhere.

    “The aim is to become a team,a good team,

    where everybody is able to interact without fear

    of loosing their individuality”.

    This collective fantasy is an answer

    to the individual’s fear of fusion into the group.

    It is a desire for security, a desire to preserve

    a threatened ego.


    -> the union of any number of people who make up a group either for “emerging group stage”,

    This collective illusion is also

    a positive aspect in the group’s evolution

    because it is a way to answer the immediate

    need of members to be together,

    even if they still lack the ability

    to establish relationships

    between them.


    -> the union of any number of people who make up a group either for “emerging group stage”,

    Although they are

    still unable to constitute a group of people

    capable of working together,

    ‘they may nevertheless be together as if

    they were in a dream where everyone

    may walk his own way, speak his ownlanguage,

    incomprehensible to the others,

    but all of them still living in the same dream.


    -> the union of any number of people who make up a group either for “emerging group stage”,

    On the other hand,the regression tendencies prevailing in this stage reflect the level of the “basic assumptions group” where fantasies and emotions emerge and reinforce the struggle between collectivityand individuality.

    “The group should continue to exist

    as-a-whole… and work together

    to move on..but I don’t want to loose

    myself…


    -> the union of any number of people who make up a group either for “emerging group stage”,

    These opposing feelings however,

    may bring the individual in a state

    of confusion.

    What members experience as “individuality”

    at this stage is not autonomy but isolation.

    Autonomy and isolation are confounded

    for although members want to be autonomous,

    they also desire to co-exist in the group.


    -> the union of any number of people who make up a group either for “emerging group stage”,

    Thus, “autonomy can only be experienced

    as withdrawal” and becomes threatening

    In this stage, the need for differentiation

    and the need for relationships require

    a constant redefinition of self-image by

    the other object, a constant need to distinguish

    between the Ego, the ‘you’ and the ‘us’.


    -> the union of any number of people who make up a group either for “emerging group stage”,

    Anzieu, Bion and Neri, analyzing this stage of illusion and non-differentiation, talk about a state of loss of boundaries, where similar feelings occur as in the passage from sleep to waking.

    It is a stage where there are feelings of loss of reality, and where, although there is no detachment from experience, neither there is a possibility of directing one’s own participation in a voluntary and active way.


    -> The fraternal Community Stage – or – union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    The affiliated Group

    The processes of the emerging group state,

    gradually lead to construction of new group

    schemes by stimulating adequate collective

    forms of thinking and information processing.

    The thoughts of individuals-members

    of the group become relevant to each other

    as each member continues the thoughts

    or words of the members speaking

    before them (resonance phenomenon).


    -> The fraternal Community Stage union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    The discussion mainly concerns the state or

    experience of the group in the here and now

    communications and interrelations.

    It is the phase, in which there

    is a growing awareness of the existence

    and working potential of the group as a

    collective subject, and as a community

    capable of thought.


    -> The fraternal Community Stage union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    “the moment of fusion”,

    Jean Paul Sartre (1984)

    He suggests that there comes a moment in the evolution of a group, “the moment of fusion”, whereby what was previously an aggregate of people is transformed into a different coherent whole,a “suprapersonal whole”.


    -> The fraternal Community Stage union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    The true notion of collective thinking starts at the exact moment the group enters this stage of fusion whereby each individual emerges from isolation,exploitation, incapacity and takes an active part in the group.

    The individual is not alone in life but as a member of the group he mayadapt to reality or try to change it.


    • -> The fraternal Community Stage union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    • Awareness of being a group:

    • people realize that their belonging to the group

    • is no longer under discussion

    • -They become more decline to put themselves at

    • risk

    • -They see the leader as being less rigid and

    • distant, and more human and vulnerable.

    • They loose their dependence on and the fear of

    • the leader (therapist)

    • They try to locate their personal thoughts and

    • questions within the group field.


    • The fraternal Community Stage union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    • - Characterized a collective, productive

    • and creative marriage between its members.

    • The state of Bion’s “work group” prevails

    • - Members are not fused and the group does

    • not have to be one-dimensional.

    • - People discover themselves through relationships

    • and interactions with other group members

    • This state stimulates feelings of

    • “belonging somewhere and having a

    • common purpose”.


    • The “fragmented group union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    • Emphasis is placed on individuality and differentiation. This becomes dysfunctional, the group splits.

    • A state of decomposition characterized by unsolved conflicts or autistic communication.

    • Members are not talking to each other or, if they do, they do not address each other but rather speak of each other. They feel isolated, separated and lost. The group fails to be a source of support, safety or identity.


    The “differentiated group” union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    is characterized by a well-organized and self-determined structure where the forces of collectivity and individualitytotally complement each other,

    The investigation of “personal roles” against “group roles” as well asmaintaining an isomorphic relation between members and the whole contribute to preserving the state

    of the “differentiated group”


    In all stages of group evolution union of any number of people who make up a group either for ,

    members interact and interrelate by transferring

    and projecting emotions and values on

    the cultural level of the group.

    In the members’ consciousness,

    the group gradually turns into a common

    object they can share but also one

    to which they may

    project undesired emotions and actions.


    Role of leader: union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    Ask questions about the status of the group

    at every moment of its existence:

    - “when” and “how” differences between members can be evaluated andintegrated in the group-as-a-whole?

    - “when interactions between members hide aggressive feelings and conflicts?

    - “What are the concealed fears behind projections?

    - “What are the concealed primary needs?

    - “What ambivalent feelings are floating in the group and how could they be integratedin the group-as-a-whole?


    “… If the individual abandons its difference union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    within a group and allows the other members

    to influence it by way of suggestions

    and impositions, it conveys the impression

    that it does it because it feels the need to

    be in harmony with them and not in opposition

    – perhaps it does it “ihnen zu Liebe”

    (for their love).

    Freud (1930) Civilization and its Discontents,


    A member of the small psychotherapy group, union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    Michael, wonders:

    “I don’t know if I’m any good

    with my job, I’ve got nothing to compare it with”

    and continues, “I’m not sure I want to stay

    in this job”.

    “I, on the contrary”, says Helen, “

    will do my best, I want to keep this job,

    I want to build up my CV,

    I want to work for other companies too”.


    Accordingly, union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    -Helen is worried when people are missing

    from the group; while she herself is always

    there, the first to arrive.

    -In contrast, Michael is always late,

    making excuses for his absence,

    always questioning if the group will manage

    to go on, or even if it is worth to

    exist.


    • In Late-modernity union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    • Any need to satisfy feelings of belongingness

    • is considered negative, an obstacle to freedom,

    • a shameful thing, a proof of personal failure.

    • - However, in a society where people believe

    • they do not need anyone and nobody needs

    • them, they feel that they can only survive being

    • in a team.


    • It is only through the group that people union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    • can achieve true recognition of their

    • achievements, orof their individuality.

    • It is only in relation to ‘the other’ that one can

    • feel that he exists as a separate even

    • an autonomous being.


    - union of any number of people who make up a group either for In post-modern organizations, workers are

    encouraged (e.g. with sales bonuses, capital

    shares, etc.) to make the organization or the team

    they belong to as their own team, and thus

    to fight for its success.

    -This identification with the group or the leader

    of the organization offers narcissistic

    satisfactions similar to those experienced

    in the primary family, while increase regression

    and the fear of loss of self-limits and fear

    of de-individuation


    - in post-modern organizations union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    flexible organizations presuppose

    flexible leaders

    Faced with the big technological and economic

    changes, today’s leaders feel weak

    and incapable of demonstrating the necessary

    confidence and authority like they used to do

    in the past, i.e.:

    to reproduce a power model to identify or fight with.

    Workers have no one to transfer the feelings

    of idealization and the images of “ideal ego”


    • in post-modern organizations union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    • - leaders must overcome themselves

    • and go beyond the status assigned to them

    • pretending to be not only strong

    • but also weak and insecure.

    • However, what happens when leaders expose themselves and their weaknesses?


    In post-modern organizations union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    ..if ambivalence is manifested

    in the transference and counter transference

    feelings of group members vis-à-vis the leader,

    does the exposure of the leader’s weakness,

    the feelings of disappointment and shame

    from exposing weakness, not give rise

    to feelings of alienation responsible

    for ‘the hidden psychological wounds

    of post-modern organizations’?

    (Hirschhorn, 1997)


    • In the small analytic group union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    • Questions:

    • how much otherness can the group

    • accommodate?,

    • when and what type of cohesion is necessary to

    • develop collective thinking and a collective

    • mind in the group? or

    • how we can people to preserve their

    • individuality beyond the roles and functions

    • assigned to them by the group, without leaving

    • them in isolation


    A discourse of ambivalence union of any number of people who make up a group either for

    …… a discourse that allows discontinuity

    in life narratives, which although not

    containing a series of achievements

    or adventures with difficulties and sacrifices,

    allow for experimentation with the new

    identities which they may develop, reconstruct

    or even reject… while being able to express

    their need of belongingness…and being able to

    exist ‘in and out of the system’ in the case of

    work and in the case of relationships..


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